The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico. [Book Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2013-05-20 00:57Z by Steven

The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico. [Book Review]

The Journal of San Diego History
Volume 27, Number 3 (Summer 1981)

W. Michael Mathes (1936-2012), Professor of History
University of San Francisco

The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico. By Colin M. MacLachlan and Jaime E. Rodríguez O. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Maps. 362 pages.

In general, Mexico’s colonial past has been interpreted as a negative experience by modern scholars. Within Mexico this interpretation is based primarily upon political concepts which idealize pre-Cortesian culture and condemn Spain as a cruel, autocratic nation which forcefully imposed itself upon Aztec civilization through bloody conquest. Foreign scholars either adhere to this “Black Legend” concept or, in a more revisionary sense, simply condemn colonialism as an institution. This new study presents a positive approach to the three centuries of Spanish domination in Mexico as an integral part of national evolution, not as a better-to-be forgotten period of darkness.

The basis for the development of Colonial Mexico, New Spain, is seen as mestizaje, the fusion of Indian and European culture which began with the conquest in 1519. In that Aztec and Spanish society shared more similarities than differences, mestizaje produced a dynamic new race, referred to by José Vasconcelos as “Cosmic,” the “Mexican.” As an integral part of society within New Spain, the mestizo is seen as the prime mover of economic growth and cultural homogeneity…

Read the entire review here.

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The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2013-05-19 23:05Z by Steven

The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico

University of California Press
December 1980
408 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780520042803

Colin M. MacLachlan, Professor of History
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Jamie E. Rodríguez, Professor of History
University of California, Irvine

“The Forging of the Cosmic Race” challenges the widely held notion that Mexico’s colonial period is the source of many of that country’s ills. The authors contend that New Spain was neither feudal nor pre-capitalists as some Neo-Marxist authors have argued. Instead they advance two central themes: that only in New Spain did a true mestizo society emerge, integrating Indians, Europeans, Africans, and Asians into a unique cultural mix; and that colonial Mexico forged a complex, balanced, and integrated economy that transformed the area into the most important and dynamic part of the Spanish empire.

The revisionist view is based on a careful examination of all the recent research done on colonial Mexican history. The study begins with a discussion of the area’s rich pre-Columbian heritage. It traces the merging of two great cultural traditions—the Meso-american and the European—which occurred as a consequence of the Spanish conquest. The authors analyze the evolution of a new mestizo society through an examination of the colony’s institutions, economy, and social organization. The role of women and of the family receive particular attention because they were critical to the development of colonial Mexico. The work concludes with an analysis of the 18th century reforms and the process of independence which ended the history of the most successful colony in the Western hemisphere.

The role of silver mining emerges as a major factor of Mexico’s great socio-economic achievement. The rich silver mines served as an engine of economic growth that stimulated agricultural expansion, pastoral activities, commerce, and manufacturing. The destruction of the silver mines during the wars of Independence was perhaps the most important factor in Mexico’s prolonged 19th century economic decline. Without the great wealth from silver mining, economic recovery proved extremely difficult in the post-independence period. These reverses at the end of the colonial epoch are important in understanding why Mexicans came to view the era as a “burden” to be overcome rather than as a formative period upon which to build a new nation.


  • List of Illustrations and Maps
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part One
    • 1. The Setting
    • 2. Ancient Mexico
    • 3. The Mexica-Aztecs
    • 4. The Birth of New Spain, 1519-1530
  • Part Two
    • 5. The Institutional Process
    • 6. The Economy
    • 7. Society
    • 8. Women and the Family
  • Part Three
    • 9. Rationalization, Reform, and Reaction
    • 10. The Process of Independence
    • 11. A Rejected Legacy
  • Bibliographical Essay
  • Sources for Illustration
  • Index
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